Monday 25 June 2012

Series 7 update

New DWM due out later this week, and just found out the title of the Dalek story, so thought an update on what we know so far about Series 7 is in order.

Episode 1 is Asylum of the Daleks. I have seen this title bandied about before, but the BFI, of which I am a member, has now confirmed it. It is getting a screening on August 14th - 11 days before the Edinburgh TV Festival. Writer Steven Moffat is expected to be in attendance for a Q & A.
What else do we know about this story? Snow planet. Daleks from every era. Biggest set so far. Lots of explosions. Amy & Rory no longer travel full time in the TARDIS.

Episode 2 is the one by Chris Chibnall set in ancient Egypt (not a Stargate type alien world, as Queen Nefertiti is in it). Big robots. David Bradley possibly a villain. Rupert Graves as a big game hunter / explorer / adventurer. Mark Williams as Rory's dad, Brian. Second biggest set so far. Story title "Something on a Something". This is the one the Daily Star claims to called "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship".

Episode 3 is the Western one with the cyborg gunfighter. Title has been referred to as The Gunslinger elsewhere - unconfirmed. Adrian Scarborough, Ben Browder and Garrick Hagon guesting. Toby Whithouse is the writer.

Episode 4 concentrates on Amy & Rory's relationship. Rory's dad again. UNIT appear. Jemma Redgrave playing possible daughter of the late great Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Steven Berkoff also in it. Have seen photos of strange little black cubes. This is also written by Chris Chibnall.

Episode 5 - Amy & Rory departure. Weeping Angels. New York. Mike McShane guest. River Song back.
Blub - Weeping Fans... Written by Moffat, of course.

Christmas Episode. Arrival of new companion - name yet to be officially announced - played by Jenna-Louise Coleman. Doctor encounters her "in the last place you would expect"... Moffat has only just finished writing this (Matt Smith said at the recent Eleventh Hour convention he had just seen it). It will need to be the next story in front of the cameras as already overdue.
Might this contain the new monster Moffat tweeted about a few days ago? The one that is supposed to be very very scary?

Episodes 6 - 13. One episode will be written by Mark Gatiss. Episode 11 is by Neil Cross. Other writers have been mentioned (John Fay, Tom McRae, Steve Thompson) but more stories are commissioned each year than are actually used.
I would assume Moffat will have the finale, but might also want the first episode of the second half of the series (number 6).
Episode 11 is the one where Matt Smith wears the new costume (and from whence the recent publicity photos have emerged). Features people in Victorian dress. Dougray Scott guesting.

How much longer is Smith going to stay in the role? He's contradicted himself a number of times in the past 12 months. Might Episode 13 see The Fields of Trenzalore and a regeneration or will he want to be the TARDIS incumbent for the 50th Anniversary proper?

Usual suspect monsters returning being mentioned - even the Radio Times seems to think the Ice Warriors might be coming back. About time too, if true, though I would personally much rather see the return of the Zygons.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Caroline John

It was announced today that Third Doctor companion actress Caroline John has passed away. She died on 5th June, but her family held back the announcement until after yesterday's funeral.
Carry, as she liked to be called, joined the programme for Pertwee's first season, as Cambridge University scientist Dr Liz Shaw. She had only 4 adventures (3 of the stories of season 7 were 7 episodes each) and left before the next season. Producer Barry Letts was going to let her go, as he felt the character was too smart, almost an equal to the Doctor, and would not realistically be able to ask any of the questions which the audience might want answered - one of the companion's roles at that time.
Carry did not mind - as she was pregnant and was about to withdraw anyway. Sadly, the character was written out off screen, so we don't have a farewell to look back on.
She returned to the role twice - most notably as an apparition of her character in The Five Doctors. The other appearance was in the best forgotten Dimensions In Time skit for Children In Need.

The character was name-checked most recently in the Sarah Jane Adventures story Death of the Doctor, where we learned she had rejoined UNIT and was working at their base on the Moon.
Carry herself reprised the role in a couple of spin-off areas - a pipe-smoking version in a number of BBV videos (The P.R.O.B.E. series) and with Big Finish audios.
Her husband, Geoffrey Beevers, is also well known to Doctor Who audiences. He had a small role as a UNIT soldier in her story Ambassadors of Death and he returned in The Keeper of Traken as the deformed Master (a role he has continued with BF).
There is a Poirot episode (Problem At Sea) which features both as a couple.

Another piece of Doctor Who history gone - but never forgotten. She will probably be remembered best by fans for her dual role in Inferno - playing both Liz and the, initially nasty, parallel world Section-Leader Shaw.
Let's hope that the planned Special Edition release of this story pays due respect to her contribution to the series.

Sunday 17 June 2012

The Origins of Doctor Who - Part 4

Two people I have not mentioned so far, but who played key roles in the development of the BBC's new Sci-Fi series are David Whitaker and Mervyn Pinfield.

The latter was Associate Producer on early Doctor Who, and would later direct part of The Sensorites, the whole of The Space Museum, and the first two episodes of Planet of Giants.
His area of expertise was in the technical side of things - such as the development of the famous title sequence. Cast whom he directed recall how his passion for the camera work and other technical requirements made him somewhat distant from the actors and story telling. He is supposed to have invented an early form of teleprompter / autocue, which he called a Piniprompter.

David Whitaker was very much a writer and a stories man. He was Doctor Who's first Story Editor. He would go on to write many highly regarded stories himself, including both Troughton Dalek tales. His other Dalek related work included the Century 21 comic strips and the first Doctor Who stage play - The Curse of the Daleks.
Whitaker worked closely with Verity Lambert in putting together the story ideas for the new series. As previously mentioned, one story which may have opened the series was "The Miniscules" or "The Giants" wherein the Doctor, Susan and their new companions would be miniaturised in Ian's school science lab. Whitaker approached other writers such as Anthony Coburn, Terry Nation, Malcolm Hulke, and Moris Fahri.
Stories were developed, dropped and moved around.
Stories which were lost included Fahri's "The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance" (don't ask...) and "Farewell Great Macedon" (about Alexander the Great). Anthony Coburn had a story about a planet of robots - "The Masters of Luxor". Hulke's first contributed idea to the programme was called "The Hidden Planet" and would feature another Earth on the other side of the Sun, identical to ours except everything would be backwards or opposite. (This concept would eventually be seen as a Gerry Anderson movie). A Terry Nation story which never made it was "The Red Fort" - a historical set during the British Raj. It was actually the success of the Daleks which put an end to it.

The story eventually decided upon to open the series (somewhat reluctantly) was one written by Australian writer Anthony Coburn, and its first episode was called An Unearthly Child. Its production is a story in itself, as we will see when we look at what has come to be known as "The Pilot"...

Many happy returns!

Happy 30th birthday today to Thomas Arthur Darvill, aka companion Rory Williams.

Saturday 16 June 2012

The Two Spouses

Two companion husbands (one real, the other fictional) are to share the London stage later this year.
Mr Pond - Arthur Darvill - and the real Mr Rose Tyler / Bille Piper - Laurence Fox - will be appearing in Jonathon Lewis' "Our Boys" at the Duchess Theatre from October 3rd (previews from 26th September).
The play concerns a group of soldiers recuperating from injury, whose ennui is broken by an authoritarian new arrival.

Monday 11 June 2012

Don't speak too soon...

In the last issue of DWM, Steven Moffat in his Production Notes wrote a lovely piece about the departure of Karen and Arthur. It was about their last day on set, and about how this was the last time they would be playing these characters etc. All very poignant.
So Arthur and Karen bid their emotional goodbyes to friends and colleagues at BBC Wales, then go off job hunting and getting on with the rest of their lives.
I'm looking at the SFX website over the weekend and come across a bit of Doctor Who filming news (unlike the week before, a bit spoiler-y). However, there is Mr Darvill, back in Cardiff and playing Rory - all for a few pick-up shots for Episode 4 apparently. Not sure if KG was recalled as well.
Mr Moffat just wrote too soon...

Saturday 9 June 2012

Assimilation Squared

This morning my copy of the first issue of the Doctor Who / Star Trek crossover comic arrived. I'm not a big comics fan, but I do like Star Trek - so couldn't resist this. Unfortunately it is the rather wishy-washy Next Generation lot, though the cover of the third issue promises Kirk & Spock (as well as the Fourth Doctor).
The Trek personnel don't appear until the final frame, but the opening sequence is all Star Trek - the Federation planet Delta IV under attack by a combined Cyberman / Borg army. The Deltans featured in the very first movie - remember the attractive (probably) bald lady? There are Vulcans and Andorrans present too.
The story then switches to ancient Egypt where the Doctor, Amy and a chariot-driving Rory have a bit of a self-contained adventure. A mysterious green crystal leads them to San Francisco in 1941, to meet Riker, Data and Dr. Crusher - or could it be the Enterprise Holodeck? Picard did used to play at being a 1940's film noir detective.
A couple of things to look out for on the penultimate page:
On 4th Street is a big sign for "Tom's Bakery", and take a look at the menu board outside the bar they enter - A Good Quiche Goes to War, The Rebel Wraps etc.

Will this ever be considered canon? Sadly no, as Star Trek has been identified as a fictional entity in the Doctor Who universe - most recently in Closing Time when Craig encounters a transmat / transporter. Remember also Rose asking the Doctor for a "bit of Spock" in The Empty Child.
It's very good fun nonetheless, bringing two massive Sci-Fi icons together. I've already pre-ordered issues 2 & 3 and am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

New official picture

The BBC have released a new picture of the Doctor and companion, downloadable from the official site as a wallpaper.

The Doctor has the new (temporary?) costume. Wallpaper-wise, I shan't use it myself. At work I've got the Matt, Karen, Arthur image which was released after the first day of filming on Series 7, and at home I've got a high quality screen-grab of Rory in front of the exploding Cyber-fleet - one of my favourite scenes from last year.

Sunday 3 June 2012


I live 100 yards away from the River Thames (in Pimlico) and, would you believe it, here I am stuck at work. (Blogging on my break I hasten to add). I've watched a minute or two of the BBC coverage on the news, but not really interested to be honest. Might watch the highlights later. Too much bling involved in royal events - can look a bit vulgar and tasteless. Sometimes less really is more.
Speaking of which, apparently the ubiquitous John Barrowman is one of the presenters. (Actually I like JB very very much).

Of course there are many connections between "The Firm" and Doctor Who.
Elements of Rob Shearman's BF audio 'Jubilee' fed into 2005's Dalek. From here the Jubilee Pizza Company was born - seen several times in Torchwood and DW stories such as Dalek and The Lodger.
The Silver Jubilee in 1977 played an intrinsic part in 1983's Mawdryn Undead - as well as stirring up the whole UNIT dating controversy.
In the parallel universe where the Third Doctor found himself (Inferno), the Republican Security Force had executed the Royals. The Doctor mentions having met George V in this story.
He has also met Henry VIII (sent him to the Tower), Victoria (might be a Lupine Wavelength Haemovariform - or alien werewolf if you prefer) and Elizabeth I (secretly married her). The Doctor couldn't remember whose coronation he had been to - Victoria or Elizabeth I - but didn't mind going back to see either for a second time (The Curse of Peladon).

The current Royals have been mentioned or seen on screen several times - Silver Nemesis (walking the corgis), The Christmas Invasion (up on the roof), Voyage of the Damned (in curlers and slippers),and Planet of the Dead (parks the TARDIS in her garden occasionally).
(Producer John Nathan-Turner actually tried to get Prince Edward to appear in Silver Nemesis).
The events of ER II's Coronation form the backdrop to the Wire's scheme in The Idiot's Lantern.
I'm sure the connection will continue - both with the current lot and with future monarch's - we've already been introduced to the gun-toting Liz 10.

I did read somewhere that "they" are quite fond of the programme - so maybe not quite so tasteless after all.

The Origins of Doctor Who - Part 3.

Wherein things start to get a bit technical.
Important components of the new programme still under consideration throughout 1963 included the theme music and opening titles, design and visual effects, and sound.
I will look at the design and effects element as we progress to look at individual stories over the coming months.

Musically, Verity Lambert always wanted something distinctive and different. Her first thought was to employ a French avant-garde group called Les Structures Sonores. They created music using rather unconventional instruments, as you can see below:

It transpired that they were too busy to participate, so Lambert turned to the more orthodox Ron Grainer, an Australian composer already well regarded at the BBC for writing the theme tunes to 'Steptoe & Son' and 'Maigret'. He would go on to write for ITC's 'Man in a Suitcase' (reused by Chris Evans for 'TFI Friday'), Patrick McGoohan's 'Danger Man' and 'The Prisoner', and 'Paul Temple', as well as several feature films.

Whilst the composer might be more orthodox, the means by which the music would be realised was not. Rather than use any conventional instrumentation, the theme tune would be realised by the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop.
They employed various electronic techniques including early synthesisers, to create the music. Responsible was Delia Derbyshire.

She quite literally built the music from individual sound elements - in the days before any kind of digital editing was possible. It would have been a case of razor blade and sticky tape, to put it all together. When Grainer first heard the finished music he famously asked: "Did I really write that?". He wanted Derbyshire to share some credit on the piece, but BBC practices wouldn't allow this.
She could never quite understand the various tamperings with her arrangement over the years. Frankly, neither can I.

The Radiophonic Workshop would also be responsible for the general sound effects for the series. This would cover background noises (aural landscapes such as the Skaro jungle or the Daleks' city) as well as the sounds for individual items such as guns, doors, machinery etc.
The most famous sound element required, (which has become such an iconic part of the programme it has been left pretty much untouched by any producer over the decades), was the TARDIS dematerialisation noise. A "Wheezing-Groaning" sound, as Target novelisations often put it, it was created by Brian Hodgson using his mum's front door key, slid up and down the exposed strings of a piano frame, then electronically processed. It was supposed to represent the "tearing of the fabric of space and time" as Hodgson himself has put it. He is on the right below, with colleague Dick Mills. Boss Desmond Briscoe look on.

The title sequence visuals were the work of designer Bernard Lodge. He employed a technique known as 'howl-around' where you point a camera at a monitor showing it's own output. You get this strange flaring and images appear to recede into infinity. I failed Physics at school, so I will leave it at that. Technophiles can look it up.
This effect was accidentally discovered by a technical operations manager named Norman Taylor. He was reportedly always slightly miffed that Lodge got all the credit - saying he only really designed the "Doctor Who" caption.

Early screen tests which have appeared as DVD extras show that they experimented with including a face in the mix (presumably the Doctor's), but the effect was deemed a bit too scary.

Sydney Newman is reported to have disliked the title sequence. Last month, SFX Magazine's website ran a competition to identify the best genre title sequence ever. Guess what (or should I say Who) won?
They elected to use the late Pertwee version for voting purposes (Season 11).
I would have chosen the original. Original and still the very best.

Coming shortly - The Pilot episode.

Saturday 2 June 2012

DWM news update

Not a lot about the new series in the latest edition of DWM. Two more guest starts announced (for episode 4). Steven Berkoff and Jemma Redgrave.The latter is playing a character called Kate Stewart, which happens to also be the name of the Brigadier's daughter in some of the DW spin-off works.Coincidence? Apparently episode 4 features UNIT, so who knows.

The episode currently being filmed is not the Christmas special (apparently that is still being written). It is one of the 2013 episodes and is written by newcomer to the series Neil Cross.
There are a whole load of filming pictures on the SFX website, which are safe to view as they're non-spoilerific. They do show the Doctor in a different costume, the companion in contemporary dress, and some extras in Victorian garb.
I rather like the Doctor's new look. Will it be a new regular outfit, or is it just for this one episode?

Lastly, the season poll in DWM made interesting reading. Moffat's principal story arc episodes did very well, though top spot went to The Doctor's Wife. Curse of the Black Spot finished last. Mark Gatiss' Night Terrors was not highly regarded. He hasn't really had a hit since his first one - The Unquiet Dead. The Idiot's Lantern was second weakest of series 2, and the controversial Dalek redesign did not help Victory of the Daleks.